Sharon Grandinette, B.S. ’80, M.S.’85, calls traumatic brain injuries in children a “silent epidemic.”
She should know. As a pediatric acquired brain injury consultant in Redondo Beach, California, Grandinette is involved every day with the treatment of children and adolescents who have sustained brain injuries and those dealing with other neurological impairments. In 2003, she founded Exceptional Educational Services, an independent training and consulting firm dedicated to serving children with special needs, specifically those with acquired brain injuries. She regularly consults with schools, medical and rehabilitation professionals, lawyers, and parents.
“There are more children sustaining and surviving a brain injury every day,” Grandinette said. “Unfortunately, brain injuries are misidentified all the time. Sometimes parents don’t even realize their child’s brain injury had a negative effect on the child until years later.”
Grandinette works to reintegrate children with brain injuries back into the regular school environment. “While not all children can go back to public school,” she said, “with the right training and understanding of brain injury, the majority of them can.”
Grandinette has published extensively in the field and provides training to individuals earning certification as brain injury specialists. She also teaches as an adjunct instructor in the graduate special education credential program at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
Grandinette earned her degrees from Buffalo State in learning and behavioral disorders. Early in her career as a special education teacher, Grandinette realized that she had a passion for brain injury treatment.
“I typically was sent the students no one else could work with and got great results,” she said.
“They sent me a 15-year-old student, and I couldn’t quite figure out why I wasn’t making the same progress. After talking to the school psychologist, I found out that she had been in a bicycle accident years earlier and had sustained a head injury. At the time, no one paid attention to a child who was typically developing, who then acquired a brain injury.”
The girl entered a brain injury rehabilitation program. While visiting the student, Grandinette was offered a job at the program. That led to a position as director of pediatrics and education at the New Medico Community Re-Entry Center in Apple Valley, California, where she was specially trained in pediatric brain injury.
Because of ongoing changes to medical plans and insurance coverage, brain injury rehabilitation has been falling largely to the public schools. However, fewer than 10 percent of educators have adequate training for teaching students with brain injuries, according to Grandinette. This is where her expertise comes in.
“In brain injury rehabilitation, we strive to give these students every opportunity. However, we are careful to use the word ‘improvement’ versus ‘recovery.’ You never say they will come back to who they were before; they don’t,” she noted. “But their quality of life can really improve with the right interventions. It’s very exciting to support them and watch their progress.”